Christ confronts apathetic churches as exampled by the church at Sardis. The description of Jesus once again indicates the tone of the letter. The One who holds the fullness of the Spirit and the fullness of authority over the churches has accurately discerned the problem: They rely on their past reputation for being active, yet they truly have little reality to show of it (3:1). They are in danger of dying if they do not come alive to their situation. There is much to be done (3:2).
They have received what they need as a church from the Lord and they have received instruction on what marks a true church, so lack of resources is not hindering them from completing their purpose (3:3a). In essence, they are comfortable. The Lord requires of every church that becomes complacent that they must repent. Their general attitude is lethargy and reliance upon the past. The worst error a guard can make is to fall asleep on watch, yet such drowsiness characterizes Sardis. They could very well lose their reason to exist, and will, if they do not wake up (3:3b). He has warned them, so judgment will not come as a surprise.
The location of Sardis included an upper level 1,500 feet above the lower level, making an attack almost impossible. The city, however, had twice been overrun due to their lack of watchfulness. Like the city, a “fortress mentality” in a church proves a failed policy. The enemy never rests. Evidently, the church knew what Christ wanted them to do, but lacked the passion that following Christ requires. One writer calls Sardis the “incarnation of mediocrity.”
To be asleep in this manner is not benign; it is sinful. This is not the case with every member. Some “have not soiled their garments with evil deeds” (3:4, NLT). Their innocence in this matter can be seen in alertness, so the Lord rewards them with the kind of purity only His presence can bestow.
He promises such reward to all who seek to overcome carelessness and thoughtlessness about the past (3:5). It is the persevering faithful whose names are recorded in the book of life. Those who profess Christ by being alive to Him, in living for Him, and setting this example for the rest of the church are those He confesses to God and heaven. His warning to churches cannot be clearer (3:6).
Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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